Green MEP calls for ‘destructive’ Stonehenge road scheme to be abandoned in favour of public transport solutions

Molly has called on the Planning Inspectorate to throw out Highways England plans for a two-lane carriageway and tunnel at Stonehenge in Wiltshire. The MEP says the scheme would damage the archaeological heritage and value of the globally acclaimed World Heritage Site and encourage more traffic [1].

UNESCO, the international body charged with overseeing Stonehenge, also opposes the developments and has urged Highways England to explore further options.

Molly said:

“The hugely damaging A303 Stonehenge proposal has less to do with protecting this valuable heritage site and far more to do with increasing road capacity. 

“The government have lost sight of the extensive evidence showing that increasing road capacity simply increases traffic volumes further. The two-lane carriageway and tunnel scheme at Stonehenge will induce yet more traffic while failing to significantly affect journey times.

“The huge cost of this destructive project should instead be used to improve public transport. In particular there needs to be an upgrade of the railway line between Salisbury and Exeter which is still single track for much of its length. This could genuinely speed up journeys between London and the South West and help shift freight transport from road to rail. It is also vital to increase the frequency and reach of local and regional bus services.

“Tackling transport emissions is now an emergency as the sector is the leading contributor to the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution. If we fail to tackle emissions from transport we will fail to meet our climate change targets or legal requirement on air quality.

“There are many measures the government could and should take to encourage a switch from private to public transport. These include restoring the fuel tax escalator – using the funds raised to invest in sustainable transport solutions – and prioritising local economies producing for local markets.”

[1] Full submission by Molly Scott Cato MEP to the Planning Inspectorate

I am responding on behalf of my constituents in South West England and many others who are deeply concerned about the A303 Stonehenge proposal and the Government’s general transport strategy which has produced this proposal.

I do not believe that it is credible to comment upon the proposed scheme in isolation from the Government’s overarching transport policies. Therefore the following brief summary outlines what I believe is a strong case against the proposal, set in context.

•       UNESCO, the international body charged with overseeing globally significant cultural sites, opposes these developments and has urged Highways England to explore further options.
•       There will be inevitable damage to the archaeological heritage and value of this globally acclaimed World Heritage Site, in particular to Blick Mead Mesolithic site and its setting.
•       While the proximity of the current road to the sacred site is far from ideal, the proposed solution appears to be predominantly a road-widening scheme designed to increase road capacity and reduce road travel times to and from London.
•       There is ample evidence that merely increasing road capacity in the UK under current policies increases traffic volumes further – the phenomenon of induced demand. These proposals will induce more traffic and barely affect transport times in reality.
•       The huge cost of this project should instead be used to upgrade the existing railway lines – as previously promised by the Government – and to invest in public transport in general in the area.
•       Transport is now the leading contributor to the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions (over 25%).  This scheme will increase such emissions in contradiction of UK law requiring the Government to cut greenhouse gas emissions.  We should at the very least upgrade the railway line between Salisbury and Exeter – which is still single track for much of its length – and improve local and regional bus services instead.
•       Transport is also a major contributor to air pollution; the UK Courts recently ruled for the third time that the Government needs to take immediate action to reduce air pollution.
•       There are many interventions the Government could take today to facilitate a rapid shift away from ever-increasing private transport towards public transport and solutions that benefit the common good including the health of our wider environment.  These include restoring the fuel tax levy, disincentivising private transport, prioritising local economies producing for local markets. There is also an opportunity to shift large amounts of freight transport from roads onto rail.

For these reasons I ask that you reject this scheme. I am more than happy to meet with you to discuss these issues in more detail if required.

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